|Diane's Antique Book Collection|
Special rules to be observed at the table.-It is ridiculous to make a display of your napkin; to attach it with pins to your bosom, or to pass it through your button-hole; to use a fork in eating soup; to ask for meat instead of beef; for poultry instead of saying chicken or turkey; to turn up your cuffs in carving; to take bread, even when it is within your reach, instead of calling upon the servant; to cut with a knife your bread, which should be broken by the hand, and to pour your coffee into the saucer to cool.
During the first course, each one helps himself at his pleasure to whatever he drinks; but in the second course, when the master of the house passes round choice wine, it would be uncivil to refuse it. We are not obliged, however, to accept a second glass.
When at the end of the second course, the cloth is removed, the guests may assist in turning off that part of it which is before them, and contribute to the arrangement of the dessert plates which happen to be near, but without attempting to alter the disposition of them. From the time that the dessert appears on the table, the duties of the master of the house diminish, as do also his rights.
If a gentleman is seated by the side of a lady or elderly person, politeness requires him to save them all trouble of pouring out for themselves to drink, and of obtaining whatever they are in want of at the table. He should be eager to offer them whatever he thinks to be most to their taste.
It is considered vulgar to take fish or soup twice. The reason for not being helped twice to fish or soup at a large dinner party is because by so doing you keep three parts of the company staring as you whilst waiting for the second course, which is spoiling, much to the annoyance of the mistress of the house. The selfish greediness, therefore, of so doing constitutes its vulgarity. At a family dinner it is of less importance.
Never use your knife to convey your food to your mouth, under any circumstance; it is unnecessary, and glaringly vulgar. Feed yourself with a fork or spoon, nothing else; a knife is only to be used for cutting.
As a general rule, in helping any one at a table, never use a knife where you can use a spoon.
Do not press people to eat more than they appear to like, nor insist upon their tasting of any particular dish; you may so far recommend one as to mention that it is considered excellent. Remember that tastes differ, and viands which please you may be objects of dislike to others; and that, in consequence of your urgency, very young or very modest people may feel themselves compelled to partake of what may be most disagreeable to them.
Ladies should never dine with their gloves on; unless their hands are not fit to be seen.
In conversation at the table, be careful not to speak while eating a mouthful; it is indecorous in the extreme.
Bite not your bread, but break it with your fingers; be careful not to crumb it upon the table-cloth.
The knife and fork should not be held upright in the hands, but sloping; when done with them, lay them parallel to each other upon the plate. When you eat, bend the body a little toward your plate; do not gnaw bones at the table; always use your napkin before and after drinking.
Frequent consultation of the watch or time-pieces is impolite, either when at home or abroad. If at home , it appears as if you were tired of your company and wished them to be gone; if abroad, as if the hours dragged heavily, and you were calculating how soon you would be released.
Leaving the table.- It is for the lady of the house to give the signal to leave the table; all the guests then rise, and, offering their arms to the ladies, wait upon them to the drawing-room, where coffee is prepared. We never take coffee at the table, except at unceremonious dinners. In leaving the table, the master of the house should go last.
Politeness requires us to remain at least an hour in the drawing-room, after dinner; and, if we can dispose of an entire evening, it would be well to devote it to the person who has entertained us.
As you pass from the dining-room, each gentleman should offer his left arm to the lady in charge.
Thornwell, Emily, THE LADY’S GUIDE TO COMPLETE ETIQUETTE, New York, Belford, Clarke & Company, 1884